Florida ethics board sanctions city officials from Islamorada, Milton

(The Center Square) — The Florida Commission on Ethics ruled against a pair of officials from Islamorada and Milton on April 19 as commissioners adjudicated a pair of ethics complaints.

The cases related to the two municipalities were pre-probable cause stipulations, with recommendations from the commission advocate. These stipulations can either be adopted or rejected by the commission.

The first complaint was brought against Henry Rosenthal, a sitting council member of the Islamorada Village of Islands, accused of using his position for potential private financial gain.

The complaint states that Rosenthal attempted to buy a church within village limits, to convert it into a dining theater, which would have needed to be rezoned from semi-public to allow the church to be used as a public dining venue.

This process is lengthy and expensive and would have required public input. Currently, residents are closed to more expansion in the village so the rezoning application would have likely been turned down.

The complaint states that Rosenthal used his position as a council member, to circumvent this process and “fast-track the change” away from public scrutiny. It further notes that rezoning this property would have increased in value significantly, enriching Rosenthal and his investors.

During the meeting, Commission Advocate Melody Hadley said that Rosenthal readily admitted that he violated Florida law and the code of ethics by using his position as a council member to obtain a disproportionate benefit for himself or others.

Hadley recommended that Rosenthal pay a civil penalty of $2,500 with a public reprimand. The commission agreed.

Milton City Councilman Michael Cusack was accused in a complaint of violating Florida statutes by using information from the city attorney obtained through his role as a council member, to inflate the salary of Scott Collins, who was to become the next city manager.

The complaint states that Cusack had violated Article II, section 8 of the Florida Constitution, by using his position to obtain a disproportionate benefit for himself.

According to Hadley, Cusack partially admitted that he had violated Florida statutes by using or disclosing information, not available to the general public, to benefit himself or another.

Cusack asked the commission to dismiss allegations that he had violated the Florida Constitution. Hadley recommended a civil penalty of $1,500. The commission adopted the recommendation.